| The Roar of Indian Peaks
It does not require many words to speak the truth.
- Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
Morning sun shines on Twin Peaks.
The Roar of Indian Peaks
Twin Peaks - 11,957 ft. (ranked #1,335 in Colorado)
Roaring Peak - 11,721 ft. (ranked #1,449 in Colorado)
Mount Adams - 12,121 ft. (ranked #1,243 in Colorado)
Watanga Mountain - 12,375 ft. (ranked #1,093 in Colorado)
Climb date: Saturday, July 23rd, through Sunday, July 24th, 2011
Trailhead name:Roaring Fork near Lake Granby, approx. elevation 8,280 ft.
Total Distance: Approx. 11 miles roundtrip.
Total Vertical Gain: Approx. 5,000 ft.
Captions on top of images.
Map of our approximate route.
The feeling at the trailhead is one of peace. The air is quiet and still, warmed by evening light. It's 6:30 PM. Four miles of unfamiliar trail stretch out below my feet. Watanga Lake is my destination. Derek and his dog Rufus hiked to the lake to establish camp earlier in the day. I will meet them at the lake this evening.
The gatekeepers of good livin'.
The initial rush of joy is quickly sobered. The trail enters a forest massacred by beetle. The wiry shadows weave in and out of each other like a spider's web.
Elegy for a dead forest.
If stars made a sound.
The first half-mile of trail ascends steep switchbacks into the mouth of the valley. I can hear Roaring Fork Creek but I cannot see it. Thick underbrush guards the wilderness.
Everything's gone green again.
A trailside monument.
The trail and creek converge. I cross the log bridge, the first of three crossings on the approach to the lake.
Water, water, everywhere.
Roaring Fork Creek in its thunderous glory.
The sunlit south flank of Watanga Mountain comes into view. The forest darkens just a little more.
I reach a trail junction at 7:51 PM. Watanga lake is another mile or two away.
The second creek crossing.
Flowers like fireflies.
I cross the creek one more time.
Another trailside curiosity.
Daylight runs in the other direction. I smell wood burning. I pick up the pace under a darkening sky.
I reach Watanga Lake at 8:52 PM. A small campfire flickers from across the lake.
Derek greets me with a handshake and a cold can of Dales. His dog Rufus greets me with a wet lick and cold nose. They climbed Watanga Mountain together earlier in the day. I unroll my bivy, take a seat on a log beside the fire, and down the beer. Stress pours away. It feels like a morphine drip. Sleep arrives by 11.
I wake twice in the silence of the night. The Great Spirit has no use for words.
I sleep well and relunctantly emerge from the bivy sack at 6 AM. It's not long before Twin Peaks receives the first light of day.
Little treasures in the golden hour.
The forecast is storm free. We don't rush breakfast and take the liberty of a late start. At 8 AM we begin walking towards the obvious low-point in the ridge between Twin Peaks and Roaring Peak.
We stay the course through trees and boulders.
We emerge from the trees and find a grass-covered ramp that provides easy access to the saddle.
We hike up the ramp to the saddle. The broad summit of Twin Peaks lies straight ahead. Roaring Peak is behind us.
We enjoy a nice and leisurely stroll across the saddle.
The north slope provides an easy ascent of Twin Peaks. In the distance, Roaring Peak, Mt. Adams, Longs Peak, and numerous RMNP 13ers form the horizon.
Lake Granby dominates the view to the southwest from the summit of Twin Peaks.
To the north, from left to right, are Chiefs Head Peak, Longs Peak, and Isolation Peak. Pagoda Mountain is dwarfed by the southern flanks of Longs Peak.
It's a beautiful day and we linger for twenty minutes on the summit of Twin Peaks. At 10 AM we retrace our steps to the saddle and begin a quick ascent of Roaring Peak. From the saddle looking up, it's hard to believe that Roaring Peak rises high enough to be a ranked peak.
Roaring Peak presents no difficulties. From the saddle we reach the summit in fifteen minutes.
The view of from where we came. This is Twin Peaks seen from the summit of Roaring Peak.
Numerous Indian Peaks 13ers dominate the view to the west from the summit of Roaring Peak.
Mt. Adams fills the view to the north. Derek and Rufus can go no further. The summit of Mt. Adams lies entirely within RMNP where dogs are not allowed. I check my watch and contemplate my future. It's 10:30 AM and the weather is good. The choice is easy - I go for it. And if the weather holds, I'll go for Watanga Mountain after Mt. Adams.
I bid farewell to Derek and Rufus. I'll see them later, back at the lake.
I locate a trail the cuts the steep western slope of Roaring Peak. I follow the trail towards Mt. Adams.
Roaring Peak creates an impressive form when seen from below. Sunlit Twin Peaks is visible in the background.
The summit of Mt. Adams is less than a mile away.
The sunny slope of Mt. Adams smiles back at me.
The grass turns to stone. The flowers remain flowers.
I reach the summit of Mt. Adams at 11:30 AM.
A future endeavor, Ogalalla Peak, fills the view to the west from the summit of Mt. Adams.
To the north, from left to right, are Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, and Isolation Peak.
I begin descending east towards the saddle between Mt. Adams and Watanga Mountain. Roaring Peak and Twin Peaks fills the view to my right.
More Majestic Columbine.
I continue towards Watanga Mountain. The summit is the high point of the broad tundra slope at photo right. The mountain on the left, in the distance, is Ogalalla Peak.
I descend to the saddle and start back up the other side, staying to the right of the nearest snowfields.
I approach the summit of Watanga Mountain at 12:55 PM.
Ogalalla Peak dominates the view to the west from the summit of Watanga Mountain.
Sky Pilots grace the summit.
The view into the Lone Eagle Cirque.
I leave the summit of Watanga Mountain at 1:15 PM. The descent to Watanga Lake is easy but sublime. I turn on some music and just cruise.
Nietzsche said "And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee." I wonder if that same sentiment applies to wildflowers.
I reach the lower basin at 2 PM. The lake isn't far. Winter's deep snowpack has recently melted away. Pristine wetlands have been left behind. I walk along their edge.
I hike past an unnamed pond perched on a bench above Watanga Lake. The impressive east face of Twin Peaks is in the distance.
I arrive back at camp where Derek and Rufus are relaxing. This is a magnificent place and it's difficult to leave. With some relunctance we tear down camp, pack our gear, and shoulder our packs. Thoughts of cold beer and warm food provide motivation. We start down the trail.
Farewell, Twin Peaks. I quietly say my thanks to the surrounding mountains and Great Spirit.
We make a fast-paced descent. At one point we encounter a female moose and her calf standing thirty feet off trail. The two animals remain still, stoic, fearless. They're staring right at us. Derek and I make an abrupt stop and hasty retreat. Rufus doesn't notice the beautiful beasts.
It's a dog's life.
For more info on the route, contact Derek or I via PM. Resources include:
"Colorado's Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs" by Gerry Roach